Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 02 March 2009 -- Sappi Fine Paper North America today announced that it will suspend all operations at its Muskegon mill in Michigan, effective 01 April 2009. This suspension will result in the furlough of approximately 190 salaried and hourly Muskegon employees.
The company is also taking other steps to cut costs, including the permanent elimination of approximately 70 additional salaried positions, effective immediately. These changes are necessary in light of significantly lower global demand for coated fine paper products, an industry wide trend that has resulted from the continued weakening of the U.S. and global economy.
Earlier this month, Sappi Fine Paper North America posted its earnings for the first quarter of fiscal year 2009, reflecting a loss of USD 7 million. “As a result of the economic conditions and market demand, it has become imperative for Sappi to focus on good cash management and running our operations as efficiently as possible,” said Mark Gardner, Sappi Fine Paper North America president and CEO. “Reducing our salaried workforce and suspending our operations at Muskegon mill was an extremely difficult decision but it was the only option that would enable Sappi to reduce costs and remain competitive in the industry, while continuing to meet the needs of our customers.”
Employees affected by the suspension of operations at Muskegon will receive pay and benefits through 30 April 2009, and will then be eligible for unemployment and other federal benefits. For those approximately 70 employees whose positions are being eliminated, Sappi will be providing separation benefits and job placement services. If market conditions improve enough over the course of the year, a decision to restart operations at the Muskegon mill would be made. Current expectations are that mill production will be suspended for at least six months, during which other mills within Sappi will make the range of products to be offered by the company.
Sappi Limited shareholders were informed of the management’s plans to suspend the operations of the Muskegon mill and restructure the salaried workforce at the annual general meeting of shareholders held earlier today.
Sappi Fine Paper North America (SFPNA) is a leading North American producer of coated fine paper used in premium magazines, catalogues, books, and high-end print advertising. Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Sappi Fine Paper North America is known for innovation and quality. SFPNA is a division of Sappi Limited (NYSE, JSE, LSE), a global company headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with manufacturing operations on four continents in nine countries, sales offices in 50 countries, and customers in over 100 countries around the world. Learn more about Sappi at: www.sappi.com.